The Bayer Top 8
One of the great joys of my work is the visits to local tv channels and radio stations across African countries.
Often, those broadcasters and producers are finding innovative ways to run a media business, sometimes in challenging conditions, and they act as shortcuts to an audience that can offer valuable insights into social trends and attitudes.
The relationship between broadcaster and listener builds up slowly and deeply over time, especially with radio: broadcasters understand how a station’s heritage adds to its connection with audiences and, in turn, listeners come to trusted brands when they need certainty.
This is as true in Africa as elsewhere. Heritage brands tell great stories.
Recently I was fortunate enough to visit a music radio pioneer in Mozambique, the modern embodiment of Africa’s first commercial radio station.
It opened in 1936 as Lourenço Marques Radio, named after a 16th century trader from Portugal who settled in Mozambique. The station beamed into apartheid South Africa from over the border in Maputo.
Today it’s simply LM Radio; the initials echoed by its strapline “Lifetime Music”.
There’s a lot about this station’s history documented elsewhere, and here in audio, including its time under military rule and as part of South Africa’s public broadcaster but one quirky fact stands out for me: LM Radio was the first radio station in the world to broadcast a chart show that played the genuine records bought.
While other stations housed orchestras who expressed the day’s popular ditties dutifully, LM actually played the hits.
All the hits. All eight of them.
The weekly show was called “The Bayer Top 8”. Yes, the first proper hit parade was sponsored, just as is the UK’s “Vodafone Big Top 40” today.
Sponsor sidebar: Bayer was, and is today, a big player in pharmaceuticals: not to be confused with Beyer who make headphones and microphones.
Later, the Top 8 programme grew to become a top 20, named the “LM Hit Parade”. This show earned its status as LM’s most famous, largely because of it’s ability to promote South African artists across the border during the apartheid years.
So, from Fluff Freeman to Casey Casem to Marvin Humes: next time you hear a chart countdown, think of Maputo in Mozambique where it all began. In 2016 the “LM Hit Parade” is still on air every weekend.
LM Radio 1973 print ad from Readers Digest. Source: lmradio.org